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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Interview with Massood Zarrabian, OutStart: Mobile Learning Applications

Mobile learning continues to expand as applications are developed for use in corporate training, K-12 activities, research and field work, and general education. Welcome to an interview with Massood Zarrabian, CEO and President of OutStart. OutStart has created a solution is that supports all mobile platforms, 500 devices, and works in connected and disconnected form

What is your name and your relation to e-learning?

[mzarrabian] Massood Zarrabian, CEO and President, OutStart

What made you interested in mobile learning?

[mzarrabian] Other than the market hype, lots of different things:
1. Our customers kept on asking us to help them with their corporate mobile strategy. All of them wanted to do something with mobile, but were looking at us to work with them and develop a comprehensive strategy.

2. My sons who showed me quizzes that were being sent around on mobile devices, and while sitting in the back of the car were discussing the answers with each other.

3. And personal experience. We use our products internally for a variety of business processes, and I was frustrated with the way they worked on my mobile, forcing me to boot up my laptop to do something that I should have been able to do with my mobile device, specifically around small training modules, and interactions with SMEs about a variety of things I needed to get done.
When did you first see a successful application of mobile learning?

[mzarrabian] Earlier this year Hot Lava’s CEO showed us some of the things his customers had done, including the Kauffman/Sprint project that was developed to deliver mobile based sports-themed science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) training (modules coupled with brain teaser content and quizzes to evaluate knowledge capture) to youth at professional sports games via mobile phones. The project experienced such great results (see below) that the Kauffman Foundation developed a video about their experience. The video is compelling, and had similarities to what my children were doing and talking about. Anyone can access the video on the Kauffman Foundation website:

Results from the Kauffman/Sprint STEM Project:
• 415,281 registered users
• 12,306 stadium SMS texts
• Global usage - North America, Europe, Asia, Africa
• Replicable model - Demonstrates the potential with mobile content

What kinds of applications have you developed and where are they used?

[mzarrabian] OutStart’s applications enable our customers to develop, deliver and track all types of mobile content without the help of someone with content development experience. Our customers like this flexibility as it allows them to deliver content faster, enabling the organization to be more agile, while leveraging their subject matter experts. We have a number of customers who have used our products to develop, deployed and track mobile content.

Examples include: A leader in fixed, mobile and converged broadband who uses Hot Lava Mobile to send SMS messages and surveys. Content developed, delivered and tracked include technical information as well as sales training; A healthcare information center uses Hot Lava Mobile as a way to develop mobile content and deliver it to inner city youth as part of a blended learning format.

The youth involved attend workshops and presentations which are followed up by several five-to-eight question modules on their phones as refresher trivia; And, an aviation training company who is using Hot Lava Mobile as part of their training for a new plane they are building. The aviation center sends quizzes and tests to pilots to further their training. As part two of the program, the center will be conducting internal and external surveys with their employees and pilots.

Please list the instructional strategies you use:

I asked one of our Consultants who has a Ph.D. and has been working with our customers for over one year to comment on mobile content development to help with the next questions, here is her response:

The instructional strategies for mobile content development are very different than those for developing content for elearning or traditional learning. On the content development side, you need to keep in mind the screen size that your audience will be using, the need and ability to include interactivity in your content, the attention span of your audience and the fact that the users are on the go when accessing your content.

To help in the development process, Hot Lava Mobile was developed to allow content developers to visualize content in the new environment by providing mobile skins for content development. It also has the ability to integrate images, audio, video and animations and allows developers to play with a full range of font sizes, colors, and alignments.

Traditional Instructional Strategies used include:

· Behaviorist: Stimulus-response systems that provide problems, challenges, or prompts to the user who then responds and receives feedback.

· Situated Learning: Due to their mobility, phones and PDAs can be taken into authentic contexts where the user can experience what is happening, as well as interact, observe, or collect information. Data can be collected and recorded and responses contributed.

· Informal Knowledge Sharing: Mobile devices now afford access to information, people, and services that support anytime anywhere access to knowledge.

On the delivery and tracking side, for those organizations that care about what mobile content their audience is using, or want to have the ability to track and record surveys or compliance results, the ability to develop fully trackable content is required. This functionality was built in to Hot Lava Mobile as well.]

How is this different than simply downloading a video from YouTube and watching it?

Youtube is not a dedicated instructional or performance support platform/medium/tool.

Youtube does not provide tracking and does not provide data that can report if learning/performance support is actively occurring.

The content on utube is not content that an organization decided to develop to improve their business

Hot Lava Mobile can track and monitor user's/learner's behaviors/responses/achievement/test scores, etc.
What makes it a learning experience?

Learning/performance support goals, objectives, and instructional strategies have been intentionally designed to elicit desired learner/user behaviors/outcomes.

Users/learners receive feedback and can access quizzes and tests to monitor their achievement/performance as well as access final scores.

Users/learners choose modules based on specific learning/performance support outcomes with the intent to transfer knowledge to their target performance environment (their job)

Are your mobile applications useful in countries where connectivity and online access are limited?

[mzarrabian] Yes. We have customers all over the globe, from South Africa to India to Australia and Brazil, as well as customers in areas where connectivity is not as much of an issue, like the US, Canada and Norway. One of the beauties of our solution is that is supports all platforms, 500 devices, and works in connected and disconnected form.

So, even with limited connectivity and bandwidth, the content will get downloaded when they are connected, and the results will be synchronized back when they connect again. This is the same model that Blackberry uses for email, but our solution for mobile content works on all devices. In addition all the content created in Hot Lava Mobile is optimized for mobile phone delivery, eliminating issues with low bandwidth areas.

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